The Girls from Planet 5 by Richard Wilson

It’s 1998, and America is enjoying its first woman president. She’s been so successful at running things that women are now pretty much running everything everywhere. Even though government has improved significantly since women took charge, there is one holdout where men are still on top: Texas. In Texas, men are still men, and they’re all doing manly things like roping cattle, riding horses instead of driving cars, and complaining about the fact the rest of the country is now under the control of the women’s libbers.

And then aliens show up. The aliens happen to look like gorgeous blonde women in miniskirts, and they’re not here to conquer the world, they’re just here to visit. People seem quite taken with the pretty extraterrestrials. Everyone, that is, except the Texans. When a beautiful alien named Lyru crash lands in Texas, it’s up to one reporter to find out why the intergalactic equivalent of the Swedish Bikini Team have really decided to drop by our planet. As you might expect, there is more to meets the eye when it comes to the busty space ladies.

I have to admit I read this book because I thought this was going to be the kind of sleazy trash they sold behind the counter at newsstands in disreputable parts of town. The kind of thing that Piers Anthony would write to titillate 14-year-olds. Alas, it is not nearly as salacious as I was anticipating.

It is not a bad book, though. Maybe it’s not a feminist masterpiece, but it’s a book where women run the world because they’re better at it than men are. Richard Wilson doesn’t seem entirely sold on women politicians, but he also thinks the manly men of Texas are kind of ridiculous as well. It’s an old-fashioned book, but I think modern readers would still find it amusing. Unless your favorite science fiction author is Joanna Russ, then you might not. But I got a few laughs out of it, so I can’t complain too much.

Nightmare Journey by Dean R. Koontz

When you pick up a Dean Koontz novel, you learn to expect a few things. There’s going to be a super intelligent dog and a precocious kid. The protagonists are going to be all sweetness and light, and the bad guys are all irredeemably evil. There’s going to be some quotes from The Book of Counted Sorrows, and one of the characters will launch into a three-page lecture on postmodernism or psychiatry or socks missing in the drier. (Dean Koontz gets upset about a lot of things.) I haven’t really kept up with his books since around the time he got rid of his mustache and gained a full head of hair, but I have very fond memories of his earlier work.

In junior high I was obsessed with Dean Koontz. I had read Watchers, thought it was one of the best things I’d ever read, and immediately tried to read everything else he ever wrote. But it  wasn’t enough to read Phantoms or Strangers. I knew what some of his pen names were, and so I would constantly go to the used bookstores looked for copies of The Voice of the Night or Shadowfires. I found those easily, but I could never find his science fiction novels.

Dean Koontz has never badmouthed science fiction, which makes sense, because he uses science fictional elements in his books all the time. But he has been quite critical of the science fiction he wrote when he was just starting out as a writer. Aside from a few short stories and heavily rewritten versions of his books Invasion and Demon Seed, Koontz has shown no interest in reprinting any of them.

Nightmare Journey is a little like Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog”, except instead of uh, a boy and his dog, there’s a psychic man and a creature that’s sort of a bear with a human brain in it. 100,000 years in the future, the world is divided between The Pure, who are the remnants of the human race, and mutants. Jask is a Pure, but once the other Pures find out h’s a telepath, they try to kill him. The bear creature Tedesec saves his life, and the two of them grudgingly team up to find something called the Black Presence. The Black Prescence is supposedly an alien waiting to see if mankind will develop psychic powers, and then it will contact the other members of its race, and the earth will get to join the Dean Koontz version of the Galactic Federation from Star Trek. I assume all the aliens own dogs.

As far as Dean Koontz’s work goes, this is nothing earth-shattering, but at least it was better than Dragon Tears. The ending feels kind of rushed, but I thought it was a reasonably entertaining novel. Had he kept on like this, he could have been a perfectly respectable midlist science fiction writer. However, he decided that hanging out at conventions with filkers and furries wasn’t for him, and he decided to make millions of dollars instead. Koontz’s current work may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think Nightmare Journey shows that at one time he was a decent science fiction writer. It’ s not worth paying 60 bucks for on eBay, but if you luck out and find it cheap somewhere, then you should get it.

The Clone by Theodore L. Thomas and Kate Wilhelm

It’s January, which means it’s time for Vintage Sci-Fi month. So here we go.

When you think of gelatinous slime monsters eating people, you would obviously think of the titular star of the 1955 movie The Blob. But if you need the non-union equivalent, the Frank Stallone or Joe Estevez of mucilaginous menaces, The Clone is here to do the job.

The first chapter of The Clone is pretty much nothing but a description of the chemicals and waste products being flushed into the sewer of Chicago. I’m sure on things aren’t great in the sewer on a normal day, but on this particular day, conditions are just right for the ooze under the city streets to generate life.

Things are already going south by the next chapter. A woman washing her dishes notices a gelatinous substance in her sink while washing the dishes. Before she has a chance to ask Calgon to take her away, it starts eating her hand. By the end of the second chapter, it’s eaten about half a dozen people and things are just getting rolling.

The book is split between our hero, pathologist Mark Kenniston, trying to stop the stop the creature from eating Chicago, and vignettes in which various citizens encounter the monster and getting absorbed. I know there’s a pandemic on, and people are suffering, but have you tried reading a book where children are eaten by a giant slime monster? It will cheer you up like nothing else. You may not be able to go to a Judas Priest concert, and you may be surrounded by people at the supermarket who have clearly never washed their face masks, and you may be in the middle of reading the latest Ernest Cline novel, but as The Clone makes clear, things could be so much worse.

It’s fun, fast paced novel that somehow only got one printing in America in 1965, despite being nominated for the Nebula award. Although the violence is more restrained than the novels of James Herbert and there aren’t entire pages devoted to describing ladies’ underwear as in the novels o Richard Laymon, this would still have fit in well with the novels of the 80s horror paperback boom. I’m honestly kind of surprised an outfit like Valancourt books hasn’t tried to reprint it, because it would fit in well with the rest of the books they publish.

I’m not familiar with Theodore Thomas, but Kate Wilhelm had a long and distinguished career in science fiction, but none of the other stuff I’ve read from her is anything like this. Perhaps she was a little embarrassed by it, which might be why this book remains somewhat obscure compared to something like Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. However, I thought it was a lot of fun, and if you enjoy novels where people are mercilessly eaten by slime, you’ll find it a hoot as well.

The End of a Journey

I don’t want to say the rest of treatment was a cakewalk, but it was certainly easier than being on the transplant unit. RC’s radiation treatments went smoothly. He wasn’t particularly fond of being sedated nearly every day for two weeks, but he liked the toys they had at the radiation center, so he didn’t complain too much. He got to ring a bell in the waiting room to celebrate the end of radiation therapy, but we weren’t done yet.

The final part of treatment was a few months of immunotherapy. We knew mostly what to expect, but this time we were adding Accutane to the mix. If you’re unfamiliar with Accutane, it’s acne medication that comes in the most horrifying looking packaging I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s good for curing severe acne, but it also can cause horrible birth defects. The entire package is pregnant women not to touch it. I had to crush up pills and put them in my son’s feeding tube every day. I hope it doesn’t cause any problems for men, because if so, I am in trouble.

Immunotherapy was a little rough, because he had to take a lot of pain medication, and withdrawing from that was difficult. He once spent several days in bed sleeping because he was so wiped out from the treatment. Accutane causes intense mood swings, so he was pretty grumpy for a lot of the time. But the end was in sight, and that was all we cared about. I wasn’t happy about my son’s tantrums, and we had to have several conversations about why it wasn’t OK to hit me or his mom, but it was better than cancer.

Then one day it was over. We didn’t make a big fuss about it, but our last stay in the hospital happened. We spent the last couple of days playing video games and watching Star Wars movies, but we said goodbye to our home away from home on the third floor of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It had been about 21 months.

He stopped getting IV nutrition about six months after the end of immunotherapy, but we were still having major problems getting him to eat with his mouth. I had to bribe him to eat applesauce, and I was starting to feel like he’d never eat normally again.

We had to take him to CHOP’s Feeding and Swallowing school to teach him to how to eat with his mouth without throwing up. I watched him from behind a two-way mirror as he learned how to eat solid food again. We finally took the tube out of his nose about three months after that, right after our Make-a-Wish trip to Disney World.

So, that’s where we’re at. No sign of cancer, and hopefully that’s how it stays. My son seems relatively unaffected by his treatment, although he has nightmares sometimes. He always tells us how much fun he had on the oncology floor and sometimes asks whether we can stay there again. I’m not sure if this is some kind of coping mechanism or if genuinely wants to go back there. I’m glad it didn’t seem to leave too many mental scars.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get over my son’s cancer treatment. It was such an intense experience that life now doesn’t feel real. Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up back in a hospital room and the past 18 months never happened. I’m glad I don’t have to put a feeding tube back in his nose every other day, but I feel kind of useless now that I’m not doing that kind of thing anymore.

Perhaps one day my heart will not leap into my throat because I’m scared that the cancer has come back, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve only just gotten used to the sight of him having hair again. He was sick for so long that I’m not sure what to do with myself now that he’s better.

I can’t complain, because we were lucky. Some kids don’t make it, and some kids have profound lifelong complications after treatment is over. Everything went relatively smoothly, and we made it through in one piece.

I am profoundly grateful to my friends and family for helping us through this, and of course I am thankful for everyone at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone from the doctors and nurses to the people working the cafeteria. I’ve never had a bad interaction with anyone from CHOP, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re the best people in the world.

When I started this blog, I had intended to chronicle my son growing up, but I don’t think I can do that anymore. I’d like him to have some semblance of privacy, and I don’t want to expose his entire life on life. Besides, I’ve read Scary Mommy, and that’s led me to believe that most people who do parenting blogs should be shot into the sun.

I’m keeping the blog, but I’m just going to do book reviews or something like that.  Maybe I’ll just put stuff here that’s too long for Twitter. I’ll definitely be doing some reviews for Vintage Sci-Fi month, but after that, I guess it’s pretty much up in the air. Thanks for reading.

Three Cheers for Stem Cells

I don’t know exactly how to describe immunotherapy. As I understand it, it’s a sort of bespoke medical treatment where they tailor a drug to fight an individual’s cancer, teaching the white blood cells to see the cancer as a foreign object so they’ll attack it. I’m not sure exactly how they create it or how it works.

What I do know is that it’s miraculous. The doctors had decided to do a couple of rounds of immunotherapy since RC was still riddled with tumors. They ran a scan after they were done, and the number of tumors in his body had been reduced from 19 to one. He was finally in remission. And now that the doctors were done with saving my son’s life, they were going to give him enough chemo to kill him.

They told us at the beginning that the high dose chemo would be the hardest part of his treatment. During one of his stays in the hospital, they stuck a needle in his neck and hooked him up to a huge machine that harvested stems cells from his body. Now they were going to use them.

During this portion of treatment, they were going to give him so much chemo it would wipe out his bone marrow. Then, they were going to give his own stem cells back to him, which would keep him alive and allow the marrow to regrow. We would be in the hospital for at least a month, and he would be seriously immunocompromised for about a year afterwards. There was a good chance the procedure would knock out his residual hearing, and the medicine would have such a negative effect on his fertility he might never be able to have children.

My wife and I signed the consent forms. I’m sure at this point, some parents would balk and try a different option. I can look online and find people insisting that chemo is useless and you should just feed your kid smoothies or something like that. But we had complete confidence in CHOP, and they were telling us this was what we needed to do, so we did it.

We were in the smallest room on the unit, and since Lisa had to have back surgery a few days before our son’s procedure. It was just going to two of us alone together for the next few weeks. I hoped that he didn’t end up in the ICU. I hoped he wouldn’t lose his hearing. I hoped he wasn’t going to die.

The treatment was as intense as they claimed it would be. The drugs they were giving hm were so toxic that I had to give him a shower every four hours to keep his skin from getting hurt. That also meant he wasn’t allowed to wearing his hearing aids or else they would burn his skin.

Then after a few days of this, it was time for his transplant. They gave him his stem cells, and now the only thing left to do was wait. The mouth sores showed up, which was probably the worst part. He kept coughing up blood, and he threw up his breathing tube multiple times until we finally stopped trying to put it back in. He was in good spirits, all things considered, but I’m sure the painkillers he was on really helped.

His blood wasn’t clotting very well, so one time the nurses woke me up to tell me they had to change his port needle and dressing. I don’t know if you have ever had to hold a three-year-old while people stick a needle into his chest at 2’o’clock in the morning, but if you haven’t, you’re not missing much. Still, the kid down the hall had a lung collapse, so it could have been worse.

Slowly but surely, his white blood cells started coming back. About a month after we were admitted to the transplant unit, they sent us home. RC was still weak, but he was feeling pretty good.

Then, after a few weeks at home, we went back and did it all over again It was somewhat different chemo this time, so no showers every four hours, but still just as nerve wracking. Again, after a month, they sent us home. And at the next scan, they couldn’t find any cancer. I had a few more grey hairs than when I went in, but my son was alive and doing well. He lost of tiny bit of hearing in one of his ears, but otherwise, he was fine. We weren’t done with treatment, but the worst of it was behind us.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Once your kid has cancer, your entire life revolves around treatment. You have a weekly clinic visit so they can stick a needle in your son’s chest and draw blood. The clinic is always crowded. You would never have guessed there are that many kids with cancer, but there are, and they’re all waiting to see the same doctors you are.

If you’re lucky, your child’s counts are good. If that’s the case, you can just talk to the care team and then go home. But if he needs plasma or platelets, then you’re going to stay for a few hours while he gets a blood transfusion. He gets a comfy chair, and he gets to watch cartoons, so he doesn’t mind too much.  But your chair isn’t so comfy, and you have to deal with rush hour traffic with a sick kid in the car.

You carry barf bags with you wherever you go now, and you try to make sure you are in your house at 2 o’clock, because that’s when he gets his dose of Ativan, which you have to keep refrigerated. There are so many different nausea meds, and you try all of them. You hate going anywhere in the car, because what if he starts throwing up while you’re driving? And of course, that happens sometimes, so you have to learn how to hold a bucket under his mouth while you’re driving. You’re not often successful, but you have to try.

He’s not eating food by mouth anymore, so you’re giving him nutrients through his nose tube overnight. You stop having family meals together because the smell of the food makes him sick. He panics at even the idea of trying to eat something as simple as applesauce.

The nighttime vomiting is the hardest part. He calls for you at 3 o’clock in the morning, and you sprint down the hallway. Hopefully you get there in time to catch it. Sometimes you’re not so lucky, and he throws up on the sheets or the pajamas.  You’ve never done so much laundry.   

They give you a fridge magnet with all the numbers to call if he has a fever. If it’s over 100.4, you’re supposed to call the number and bring your kid to the hospital no matter what time of day or night. You are most likely going to be making an unexpected stay there for a couple of days or weeks, but it doesn’t really matter because you have a bag full of your clothes in the car all the time now.

This is how it goes for months. If you’re not in the hospital, you’re making plans to go the hospital. And everyone’s great. The doctors, the nurses, your family friends, your friends – they’re all wonderful and concerned, and it’s amazing. You have shirts made with a catchy slogan and talk about how your kid’s a fighter. You and your friends go to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand 5k, and everyone is so supportive.

But you spend a lot of time thinking about what stuffed animals you’re going to bury your child with and what you’re going to say at his funeral. You think about how you’re going to kill yourself if your son dies. But you can’t talk about it with anybody. You act brave for your family, and you act brave for your child, and you never let anyone know how it feels inside. It’s like being eaten by shark and trying to act like it doesn’t hurt at all.

After five rounds of chemotherapy, you get the word the primary tumor has shrunk enough that they can do an operation to remove it. The surgeon seems pretty optimistic, and you’re pretty optimistic at this point too. Treatments have been rough, but your son has been dealing with the treatments like a champ, and he’s been feeling better. Sometimes, he runs through the hospital like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

The surgery is a big success. The surgeon gets almost the entire tumor out, and your son gets out of the recovery ward three days early. You feel like you’re on top of the world. You’ve lived in the Philadelphia area for almost 25 years, and the first time you want to run up the art museum steps and jump around like Rocky Balboa. 

Then your son gets his MIBG scan. The doctor calls you afterwards with the results. They’re not great. They had expected him to be in remission by now, and he’s not there yet. They’re going to have to make some changes to the treatment plan. They reassure you that this can happen, that sometimes the treatment plans go on a lot longer that what they initially expected. You try not to cry, you hug your son, and get ready for yet another stay at the hospital.

An Introduction to Pediatric Cancer

I didn’t cry when my wife told me our son had cancer. I felt completely numb, but there were no tears. Looking back, I’m really surprised about this, but I guess I was so focused on getting back to the hospital that I forgot to cry. If I’d allowed myself to give into grief, I would not have been able to drive the car to the hospital

I got back to the room we were staying at, and they were in the process of moving us to the oncology floor. RC had been diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma. It most commonly manifests in the adrenal glands, and in his case, it had progressed to the point where it was all over his body. We would not be going home for some time.

The only thing we really had going for us was the fact that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is at the forefront of neuroblastoma research. They didn’t promise they could save our son’s life, but they had an aggressive 18-month treatment plan, and we figured that if anyone was going to be able to keep him alive, it was going to be them. The doctors were all very nice, and they all had a lot of experience, so we signed a bunch of paperwork and told them to do whatever they needed to do.

They told us not to worry about what you see on the Internet because each child responds to treatment differently, and the statistics don’t tell you the whole story.  Of course, the first thing I did was go on the Internet and look up neuroblastoma. It appeared that RC had about a 50 percent chance of beating it. I had never felt so powerless on unsure of what to do.

The most excruciating experience of my life was the wait to have a port placed in my son’s chest so he could receive chemotherapy. I just wanted someone to put some kind of medicine into his body, and I didn’t care what it was. They could have hooked him with an IV of Robitussin, and I would have been thrilled. I could barely sleep knowing there was something inside his body trying to kill him. The second the nurses started the first infusion of chemo, I felt like I could breathe again.

RC was unhappy about everything that was going on, but he was really tough about it. He didn’t complain much at all, although one time when he was getting an IV change he said, “I don’t like this hotel very much.”  He liked going to the playroom, and he got to play with an iPad a lot more than he normally did, so he remained relatively upbeat. That was really helpful, because I don’t know if I could have held it together for that first round of treatment if he’d been in a really bad mood.

The only thing he really put up a fuss about was taking any of his meds orally. The nurses suggested we place an tube in his nose so we could give him meds that way. We initially refused, saying that he was going to learn how to take his medicine like a big kid. After a couple of weeks, we gave in. We were too tired of fighting, and it felt like we were torturing him.

We made it through the first week of round of chemo, and then we had to wait for his body to recover enough to go home. We’d had an enormous outpouring of love and support from family and friends, and RC was being so brave that I walked out of the hospital feeling like everything was going to be all right. Then, about a day and half after we got home, RC spiked a fever, and we had to go back to the hospital for two weeks. Two steps forward, one step back – that’s cancer treatment for you.

Life Gets Even More Complicated

We should have known. The doctors told us there was no way we could have. All kids get fevers, and 99.8 percent of the time, it’s just a regular old cold. And of course, the doctors are right. It wasn’t our fault we didn’t catch it earlier. I still feel guilty though.

RC had been feverish off and on for a few weeks. We’d taken him to the emergency room, and they thought it was the flu. And it seemed that like that was the case. Motrin seemed to fix the problem, and kids get sick all the time, so there was nothing to worry about.

And then one day he was having trouble walking up the stairs. He was pulling himself up with the bannister instead of just using his feet. Lisa and I were obviously concerned, so we planned to take him to the pediatrician.

That night he woke up every hour screaming that he hurt. He didn’t have any bruises, and nothing seemed broken, but we couldn’t calm him down. That morning, the pediatrician took one look at him and insisted we had to take him to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. At this point, we thought it was still just a bad cold of some kind.

The people at CHOP didn’t know what it was either. We were going to have to stay overnight to run some tests. And each day they still didn’t know, so they had to run more tests. RC was having fun in the hospital’s playroom, but we all just wanted to go home.

We’d been in the hospital for a few days when they told us RC probably had chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis. I know, how could we not have realized that? It’s a immunological disorder that causes bone pain. There was no cure, but they told us they could treat it, if that was in fact the case. They had to run some more tests to rule some things out.

Lisa and I were relieved, or as much as you can be when you find out your son has a serious medical issue. They had some kind of treatment, and we could go home soon. He was going to be OK, and that’s all that mattered. If we could handle hearing loss, we could handle this.

In all the excitement, we had forgotten that we having a new floor put in our den on Monday. I drove home for a few hours in order to clean up. I got the house in order, packed up some fresh clothes, and started heading back to the hospital. I ordered a sandwich from Jimmy John’s (I was getting tired of hospital food, and wanted to eat anything that wasn’t from the hospital cafeteria), and while I was killing time waiting for my order at Barnes and Noble, my wife called to tell me our son had cancer.

Life Gets More Complicated

There’s a book called Far from the Tree. It’s about children who are very different from their parents, as in they have dwarfism, autism, etcetera. There’s a chapter in the book about deaf kids, and I learned from the book that there was a deaf activist who believes that deaf children who should be taken away from their parents and given to deaf couples to raise to ensure they’re be part of “deaf culture”.

I was reading this the day after RC had been diagnosed with hearing loss. It’s already hard to feel confident with a newborn, let alone with a child with disability. Then you read that some people think that your child would be better off with someone else, and it’s like a punch in the gut. I’d been really brave about it, but that was the one time I cried about it.  He was sleeping in my arms while I was reading, and I apologized to him. Looking bad, it seems stupid. What difference does it make what some activist thinks about my ability to parent a child with hearing loss? I haven’t bothered worrying about it since.

My son’s not totally deaf. He has mild to moderate hearing loss, and I know how that sounds. You hear the words “mild” and “moderate” and assume that it’s no big deal. But he has to wear hearing aids, and he will for the rest of his life. The aids correct his hearing to where it’s almost normal, but he sometimes has trouble in crowded places or when someone’s talking to him from another room.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that his hearing wasn’t up to snuff. He failed his newborn hearing test and failed it several times after that. They had told us at the hospital that he might have amniotic fluid in his ears and that might be what was causing it. And we clung to that belief right up until we went to an ENT doctor and he told us there was no amniotic fluid in his ears.

We still didn’t think anything was wrong. I would shut the door loudly to see if the baby reacted. I stood behind him and clapped my hands and had my wife watch to see if he blinked. I read books to him like everything was fine. We had an appointment coming up with an audiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and we just assumed we’d been in and out in 20 minutes, and then we’d get on with our lives.

When the audiologist gave us the news, my wife started sobbing. For weeks she blamed herself for his hearing loss, thinking that she ate too many hot dogs which caused the microscopic damage to the hair in his ears. I tried to focus on all the information the audiologist gave us on how to help him. He was obviously never going to have completely normal hearing, but with hearing aids we could get pretty close.

I don’t have a dramatic video of my son getting his hearing aids for the first time. I always watch the ones on Youtube, and they’re very cute, but it wasn’t nearly that dramatic. It wasn’t like a whole new world being opened up for him; it was just making the sounds he heard a little clearer for him. The audiologist suggested a cap to keep him shearing aids on and to can keep him from trying to take them out. That’s why almost picture of my son from the first two years of his life make him look like he’s going to hop in the spirit of St. Louis and fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

We tried learning sign language, and he used it when he was a baby. Once he learned how to talk, he stopped showing an interest. If he decides he wants to learn, then I guess we’ll do our best to learn it, but for now, he’s just not interested. Sorry, Far from the Tree activists.

He’s always been pretty enthusiastic about wearing the hearing aids, and he doesn’t seem particularly bothered that he as to wear them while others don’t. Of course, this could all change in the future. I’m sure when he’s a moody teenager, he might give us some problems. But so far, so good. The hearing loss seemed like such an enormous obstacle at first, and now it’s just a tiny part of his life. I thought once we got a handle on the hearing loss, everything would be smooth sailing. However, shortly before our son’s third birthday, our lives went to hell.

Adventures in Parenting

Other than breastfeeding, things went reasonably well in those first few weeks. By his second day home, I was already taking our son for a walk around the block. However, since he was born in early November I was only able to do that for about three days before the polar vortex showed up and ruined everything.

What do you do with a baby in the cold weather? Definitely don’t put it in a microwave. That is a bad idea, no matter what it says on about cleansing your baby’s toxins. And your baby doesn’t want to help with your bank heist. The baby knows that you are your team have a bond that was forged in the Vietnam War, and it can’t just wander in and expect to be accepted by the other guys. You could make him fight a wolf, but that’s really an activity for older kids.

So, you should probably take the kid to mall. I know the mall sucks these days. They don’t have bookstores or music stores there anymore, and you can’t walk past the Aerie store without worrying about Chris Hansen. The store sells underwear for teenage girls, and they have giant pictures of teenage girls in their underwear right in the shop window. How is that even legal? And don’t get me start Spencer’s Gifts. I’m no prude, but when did it turn into Dildos-R -Us?

But the mall is warm, and you can stretch your legs, and you have to teach your baby about Chick-Fil-A or else he’s going to learn about it on the streets. The only downside to this was that we had to take the stroller. There are strollers than are small and can be carried in one hand, but those are for older kids. Newborn strollers are built like ED-209. We had a Honda Fit, and it was no fun trying to put that in the trunk. As soon as he was old enough, we got a jogging stroller, and that worked out a lot better.

They tell you to narrate your day so your child can an acquire language. And that’s a great idea, but it also gets boring really fast. We got a whole bunch of books for the baby, but newborns have zero interest in reading books. So, I decided to read him something I would like, which was Terry Carr’s   Treasury of Great American Fantasy. It had a great list of authors, and I had only read some of the stories included, so I thought it would be a great way to bound with the baby. The first story in the anthology is the classic H.P Lovecraft story “The Rats in the Walls”, which features a cat whose name contains an ethnic slur. So, after promising myself I would never lie to my child, he was about a week old and I’m already telling him the cat’s name is Steve. The rest of the stories didn’t have problems like that, so it was a fun bonding experience for all involved.

Before long, my wife was accusing me hogging the baby because I carried him with me almost all the time. I liked holding him so much that I couldn’t put him down. Also, he didn’t take naps during the day, so I didn’t really have a choice. Before he was born, I was so nervous holding babies. One month after he was born, I baked a cake holding him the entire time. That’s right, I managed to bake an entire Betty Crocker cake while holding a baby. Suck it, moms in Africa who have to travel 10 miles every day to get fresh water. I’m totally dominating you in the parenting game. The transition to being a father was a lot easier than I was expecting. While there was certainly not a lot of sleep going on, those first months were some of the most blissfully happy times of my life.

The end of my wife’s maternity leave was coming to end, so we had to decide what to do about looking after the baby during the day. During her pregnancy, we had sot of toyed around with the idea of me being a stay at home dad. I was hesitant because I felt really uneasy about leaving my job,. But then the baby came along, and it was hard to imagine leaving him every day. We also got some news that made me being a stay home dad pretty much a necessity.